August 17, 2017

BlackBerry Maker Unveils Its New Line, and a New Name

In an event on Wednesday in New York to unveil a line of new smartphones and new software to operate them, Thorsten Heins, the company’s chief executive, synchronized the names as BlackBerry. But because the new name is now tied to the company’s hopes of restoring its main product’s status as a symbol of executive cool, the change carries some risk.

Frank Boulben, chief marketing officer of BlackBerry, said that Research in Motion had become more confusing than inspired. “We thought this was time to symbolize a real change with a name change,” Mr. Boulben said. “We wanted to have one brand, one premise, to focus all of our marketing efforts.”

Those efforts will reach new heights on Sunday, when BlackBerry will run an ad during the Super Bowl promoting the BlackBerry Z10, a touch-screen phone, and the BlackBerry Q10, a phone that combines a traditional BlackBerry physical keyboard with a smaller touch screen.

The new name was the biggest surprise in Mr. Heins’s presentation. The company began demonstrating the touch-screen phone and operating system in May and also made prototypes available to app developers at that time.

But Mr. Heins kept the focus on the phones. “Today represents a new day in the history of BlackBerry,” he said. “These BlackBerry 10 devices are absolutely the best typing experiences in the industry.”

Analysts, technology reviewers and app developers with advance access to the BlackBerry Z10 and the BlackBerry 10 operating system liked the phone, calling it the company’s first competitive touch-screen phone.

But the new products arrive long after Apple’s iPhone and phones using Google’s Android operating system have come to dominate the smartphone market, so their success is anything but assured. According to IDC, BlackBerry now holds just 4.6 percent of that market, about one-tenth of its peak market share.

Analysts are concerned about how long it will take for the phones to go on sale in the United States. BlackBerry said the Z10 would be available in Canada on Feb. 5 and in the United States in March. Verizon Wireless announced that it would sell the Z10 for $200 with a two-year contract. BlackBerry 10 phones will also be carried by ATT, Sprint and T-Mobile, but those companies said they would announce prices later.

Mr. Heins, who took over as chief executive a year ago, said the company would release the second keyboard model, the Q10, in April. “I think the longer the time between announcement and availability these days, the worse it is,” said Jan Dawson, an analyst with Ovum. “It’s especially sad that it’ll likely be a month from that big Super Bowl spend to when it launches.”

Physically, the Z10 resembles an iPhone 5 with its corners snipped off. Unlike its competitors, the Z10 lacks a button to take users back to a home page and relies entirely on users swiping their fingers across the 4.2-inch screen from different directions to summon features or menus.

While the Z10 lacks a physical keyboard, the main attraction of BlackBerrys for many current users, the company said it had developed software that should alleviate some of the inadequacies of on-screen typing. For instance, it will offer word suggestions that can be selected with a flick of a finger.

BlackBerry said Wednesday that more than 70,000 BlackBerry 10 apps are now available.

BlackBerry 10 server software will allow corporate and government users to divide employees’ BlackBerry 10 phones into separate work and personal spheres and to give I.T. managers complete control over the former.

The company’s former name came to co-founder Mike Lazaridis in 1984 while he was watching a television program about football players using ballet lessons to improve their speed. He saw the words “poetry in motion” on the TV screen and, according to Rod McQueen, author of “BlackBerry: The Inside Story of Research in Motion,” Mr. Lazaridis said, “I knew what to do.”

BlackBerry joins a long list of companies that have changed their names to reflect a new beginning. Some of the changes, such as Apple’s decision to drop “Computer” from its name in 2007, have been subtle. Apple made that move to reflect its expansion into hand-held devices.

Other changes have been more dramatic. In 2003 Philip Morris, the cigarette and food giant, became the Altria Group to distance itself from the negative aura surrounding smoking. Interstate Bakeries adopted the name of its main cupcake product, Hostess Brands.

In 1998, Research in Motion sought professional advice and hired Lexicon Branding — which created Pentium for Intel and PowerBook for Apple — to create the BlackBerry name.

BlackBerry’s old name isn’t the only thing disappearing. Nick Manning, a spokesman for the company, said that BrickBreaker, a BlackBerry game with a cult following on Wall Street, would not be included on the new phones.

William Alden contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 30, 2013

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to the plans of major American carriers to offer the two new BlackBerry models. While Verizon Wireless, ATT, Sprint and T-Mobile will all carry new BlackBerrys, not all will offer the Z10; Sprint has so far announced plans only to offer the other model, the Q10.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/31/technology/blackberry-maker-unveils-its-new-line.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

You’re the Boss Blog: Will a New Software Release Get Silver Lining Out of Debt?

She Owns It

Portraits of women entrepreneurs.

Carissa ReinigerSara Krulwich/The New York TimesCarissa Reiniger

At the end of our last post, Carissa Reiniger, founder of Silver Lining Limited, was out of cash and about to miss payroll. Buying herself another few months, Ms. Reiniger told the other members of the business group, she managed to negotiate a $250,000 convertible note with a friend.

“So, the same thing you were doing before,” said Alexandra Mayzler, a group member who founded Thinking Caps Tutoring. Ms. Mayzler was referring to Ms. Reiniger’s past practice of borrowing from friends and family at high interest rates and then borrowing from others to pay them back.

“No, it was a smart deal — not a promissory note with a crazy high interest,” said Ms. Reiniger. The note, she said, was convertible to equity. In June, she raised an additional $100,000 by selling royalties on future sales of Silver Lining’s software to 20 people who each paid $5,000.

“It’s creative,” said Susan Parker, the group member who owns the dress manufacturer BariJay.

Ms. Reiniger agreed and said she had also cut costs in every possible way: “We haven’t spent money on anything that we haven’t had to.” She said Silver Lining’s operating costs, including software development, had been covered by the convertible note, royalty sales, revenue of $350,000 and personal money, including some from the sale of her condominium in Canada. She also went without salary for several months.

The software — the Silver Lining Action Plan, or SLAP — went on sale in October, and Ms. Reiniger said she had 120 customers within three weeks. On the product’s site, Ms. Reiniger appears in a video, outlining the basics of the plan. SLAP, she explains, is a five-step system that helps owners clarify their visions for their businesses, set one-year financial goals, determine their ideal client, create a 12-month program with quarterly goals, and, finally, execute the program. The software is intended for businesses with revenues from $100,000 to $2 million. The product’s motto is, “Every small business owner needs a SLAP!”

The software sells for a monthly subscription of $99. Plans with additional support are available for monthly rates of $500 and $2,500. “In theory, this whole scheme that I’ve had will pay off,” she added.

But she’s still saddled with about $145,000 in old debt. Additionally, she said, Silver Lining’s accounts payable list is up to about $35,000 — money owed to creditors, including former employees and vendors. Ms. Reiniger said she is repaying the money she owes some and trying to hammer out payment plans with the rest (some of Ms. Reiniger’s creditors dispute that she intends to repay them).

“That’s not bad, considering,” said Ms. Parker.

“Right,” said Ms. Reiniger. “I’m actually pretty proud of where we are right now. We’ve paid off a ton of debt and done amazing things with very little money.” But still, she said, “I’m skating this very fine line between having it under control and not having it under control.”

Ms. Reiniger said she was trying to decide whether to sell some equity or to maintain full ownership and control. Assuming she could find an investor, the first option could help pay off her debt more quickly. She said that while investors have shown preliminary interest in Silver Lining, she recognizes that that doesn’t necessarily translate into writing a check and putting it into her bank account. Without financing, she said, she could “totally right the ship” within six months. “I think the end result is the same. It’s just about timing and ease of getting there,” she said.

Ms. Reiniger said she felt she had come too far to give up any control of Silver Lining. “I’m almost done with this battle,” she said. “Why stop when I own 100 percent of my company?” On the other hand, she said, the notion of paying everyone back sooner — including some vocal detractors who could cause bad publicity when she least needs it — is appealing.

Ms. Parker asked why Ms. Reiniger was so sure she could pay everyone back within six months.

“We’re not talking about millions of dollars,” she said. Silver Lining, she added, has a detailed financial model that enables her to predict conversion rates. And because the company has been in business since 2005, it has a large database and network of prospective customers.

“Sales are not a mystery to me,” Ms. Reiniger said.

You can follow Adriana Gardella on Twitter.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=ea7cb0b68bae3da10c6554d36137c386

Practical Traveler: An Update on Holiday Air Travel

This season, planes will be even more tightly packed as airlines continue to cut capacity through the end of the year and into the next, even as more passengers take to the skies. But thicker crowds aren’t the only differences that holiday travelers can expect this year. Some changes, including modified security screenings for children, will be welcome, others won’t.

Below, some of the most notable changes that have been introduced over the last 12 months, as well as a few new options to help avoid long lines and luggage fees.

Airport Security

The big news this holiday season is that children 12 and under can leave their shoes on when going through security. The policy change, which began as part of a test in August by the Transportation Security Administration and became official last month, also curtails, though doesn’t completely eliminate, pat-downs of children. Now, children may be sent through detectors or image machines multiple times or hand swabs may be used to check for traces of explosives, in lieu of a pat-down.

Adults must still go through the usual drill of removing shoes, jackets, belts and watches; taking out laptops and cellphones; and making sure their 3.4-ounce tubes of toothpaste and shaving gel are safely sealed in a quart-size plastic bag.

The T.S.A. has also installed new software on certain body scanners designed to improve privacy by replacing the virtual nude images of passengers, previously used, with a generic, computer-generated outline. Passengers are now able to view the same image online that the security officer sees on a computer screen as they pass through security.

This fall the T.S.A. plans to test the same software on full-body X-ray scanners, which still use actual images of passengers that show the contours of the body and reveal foreign objects. Currently, there are nearly 510 imaging scanners at some 90 airports nationwide, with additional units planned for later this year.

Passengers willing to pay for access to expedited security lines will find that more airlines are offering the service as an add-on. In June, JetBlue introduced Even More Speed, which offers passengers who, depending on the flight, pay $10 to $65 extra for a seat with more legroom, as well as a spot in an expedited security line at 15 airports, including Newark Liberty, San Francisco and Kennedy. United has been selling expedited security and preboarding (from $9) for a couple of years now.

And American has been expanding its Five Star Service program to more airports including Boston and San Francisco, which offers expedited security lines along with other V.I.P. services like lounge access, preboarding and assistance with things like check-in, bags and airport connections for $125 a person.

Boarding

Compounding confusion at the gate, a couple of airlines have changed their boarding procedures this year. American, which used to board back to front, now randomly assigns travelers without elite status to boarding groups. Coach passengers can buy their way into the first group, behind first class and elite frequent fliers, for $10. The carrier says the revised process, which it introduced in May, has improved boarding times 5 to 10 percent and reduced the number of bags checked at the gate.

United, which had switched to boarding by row from back to front, returned to window-middle-aisle boarding zones this summer. It will switch its Continental Airlines unit, which boards back-to-front, to window-middle-aisle next year.

Fees for Checked Bags

Prepaying for checked bags online this season? Don’t expect a discount. Airlines like Delta, United and Continental that used to knock $2 to $5 off for prepayments eliminated those price reductions, bringing the cost for checking one bag on many domestic flights to $25, and $35 for the second, whether they are paid in advance or not. To avoid paying those fees, some passengers have been lugging more belongings onto already crowded planes — and will no doubt continue to do so over the holidays. JetBlue still offers the first checked bag free and Southwest still offers two.

Travelers who try to avoid the carry-on mess by stuffing holiday gifts in checked bags may be caught off guard by increased fees for excess luggage. “In some cases the fees are shockingly high,” said George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com. In March, for example, United doubled fees for overweight luggage weighing 71 to 99.9 pounds to $400 each way for bags on most international routes, up from $200, and $200 on domestic routes, from $100.

Oversize bags on United measuring more than 62 linear inches are now $200 extra on international routes, up from $100 previously. Similarly, US Airways now charges $175 each way for overweight bags from 71 to 100 pounds on most international flights, up from $120, according to industry experts.

Some airlines also added or increased fees for a second checked bag on international routes. Delta recently began charging $60 each way for a second checked bag (if paid online) for flights between the United States and South America, Asia, India, Australia and New Zealand. In February, American began charging $30 each way for a second bag between the United States and the Caribbean and Central America.

New Credit Card Perks

One way to improve your airport experience and decrease luggage fees is to sign up for a new credit card, as more card issuers are offering a wider range of benefits. Just last month, Delta added priority boarding and 20 percent off in-flight food, beverages and movies to the range of perks it offers Gold and Platinum Delta SkyMiles American Express card holders. The card, which comes with an annual $95 fee, had already included the first checked bag free for up to eight traveling companions.

In July, Chase introduced the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, which includes priority boarding, two United airport club passes a year, the first checked bag free and other benefits for a $95 annual fee. Also in July, Citibank introduced the American Airlines-branded Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard, with a roster of perks, including lounge access, expedited security and priority boarding and free checked bags, for a $450 annual fee. And this year, American Express added some perks for Platinum Card holders who pay annual fees of $450; benefits include Priority Pass Select airport lounge access in more than 300 cities worldwide (normally $249 for 10 visits), and free membership to Global Entry, which offers expedited security clearance for preapproved travelers entering the United States. The card also offers $200 a year in reimbursements for airline fees.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=971ea03bcc0751ce3acf13b95585f827